One of the first things you do when starting a business is research the competition, so you can know who’s out there and how to outcompete them. But are you actively monitoring your competition on an ongoing basis?
Most entrepreneurs don’t think about their competition much longer after launching a business, or if they do, they only pay attention when a new competitor emerges, or when one of their competitors launches a successful product or new strategy. However, there are massive benefits to monitoring your competition regularly, and it’s easier to do than you think.
What Monitoring Involves
You don’t need to plant spies working on the inside to feed you information about your competitors. In fact, the digital age has made competitive monitoring easier than ever. Typically, companies rely on some kind of competitive monitoring software, whether it’s to track a competitor’s activity on social media, or something that stays plugged into news updates and press releases. These platforms sometimes function as search engines, helping you understand what your competitors are publishing and talking about, and sometimes function as alert systems, notifying you about new posts and interactions your competitors are making.
Of course, you could also watch your competition the old-fashioned way, staying tuned to their websites and social media platforms in watch for new updates that you can learn from.
Why Monitor the Competition?
Does competitive monitoring sound like more trouble than it’s worth? Have you avoided starting any competitive monitoring strategy? If so, you need to realize that failing to monitor your competition means missing out on these enormous benefits:
First, seeing what your competitors are doing can give you inspiration for new ideas. Obviously, you can’t copy what your competitors are doing directly; your mutual customers would see no difference between you, and you might even infringe on copyright laws. However, you can take elements from their ideas and their news, and turn them into something that works for you. For example, you can create a better version of their product, or learn from a mistake they made.
Learning about your competitors also gives you an easy way to differentiate yourself, which is especially important in a competitive landscape. You can learn about how they shape their brand voice, the patterns they use to publish content, and what types of content they publish. Then, you can craft your own brand voice and content to serve a slightly different niche, or serve complementary needs. The more distinguished you are, the better.
- Customer knowledge
Watching your competitors is about more than just understanding the competition—it’s about understanding your customers. Chances are, you and your competitors have the same customers, and the same target demographics. Watching how those demographics respond to different techniques and approaches can give you more ammunition to use in your own campaigns, and better serve your customers. You can learn about strategies that work and strategies that don’t work, and get more information on average customer interactions.
- Staying a step ahead
Watching the competition is also about staying a step ahead of the industry—so for this, you’ll need to monitor multiple competitors at once. Instead of looking at what your competitors are doing, look at what they aren’t doing. What technologies, strategies, or new products could you incorporate to be seen as a leader in your industry? What ideas do you have that others haven’t touched?
- Preventing an ambush
Finally, you can use competitive monitoring to prevent an “ambush.” Obviously, this isn’t an intentional attack, but rather is getting blindsided by a new announcement, new product, or strategic shift that you didn’t see coming. Watching your competitors’ moves and announcements proactively can help you stay abreast of these developments before they unfold—and threaten to take your customers.
To start monitoring your competition, you don’t need to spend much money or invest much time. Simply adopting a new software platform and setting up alerts for news and posts from your competitors could be all it takes to make a difference in your campaign, and provide thought-provoking new directions for your campaigns.